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By Andrew Hood
Four-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong told the French sports daily L’Equipe he’s still not convinced he’ll race in the 2003 road world championships in Hamilton, Canada.
Armstrong said the race is too late on the calendar to suit his training program for his run at a record-tying fifth Tour in July. “Even though it will be special to have the world’s in North America, it’s very late. It’s hard to stay in focus after the Tour unless you race in the Vuelta. That’s hard to do,” he said.
Armstrong also rounded out what will be his spring racing schedule, which could include Paris-Nice for the first time since 1998. “It’s usually Tour of Murcia (in Spain, March 5-9), but I’d like to race Paris-Nice. The race has changed a lot since I last did it and it’s found its place. I’ve always liked the race,” he said.
Armstrong also said he’ll likely skip Tour of Flanders, which he raced this year because it’s a dangerous race that requires top form, difficult for Armstrong to shoot for so early in the season. He said his spring racing scheduled will likely include starts at Milan-San Remo (March 22), Amstel Gold (April 20), Fleche Wallone (April 23) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 27).
Riis on Tour 2003
CSC-Tiscali team manager said the 2003 Tour course favors his team, even though it remains to be seen whether or not he can sign 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich. Riis was hoping to announce Ullrich’s arrival to the team during the Tour presentation last week in Paris, but the Dane has yet to secure a co-sponsor for the team to have the money to sign the German.
“It is a good route. It is not all that challenging, but I think that it will suit our style of racing well. I think that the 68-km team time trial will be very important and we will be aiming for the yellow jersey on that day,” Riis said on the team’s web page. “Generally speaking, next year’s Tour requires a coherent team effort from our riders who have to be able to defend the yellow jersey in the event that we should succeed in taking it early on in the race. There will only be two very tough mountain finishes. And, on many stages, the toughest climbs are placed far away from the finish.”
If Riis can sign Ullrich, the German will likely share leadership duties with American Tyler Hamilton, who finished second overall at the 2002 Giro d’Italia despite racing much of the three-week race with a broken shoulder. Riis, the winner of the 1996 Tour, said it was great to celebrate along with 21 former winners of the race at the presentation of the 100th race edition.
”It was a great experience to be celebrated along with such prominent cycling personalities. It reminded me of the significance of this race,” he said. “A Tour de France win ensures prominence and prestige.”
Ullrich on Riis
Jan Ullrich, meanwhile, says he wants to rejoin former Telekom team captain Bjarne Riis at CSC-Tiscali next season. The troubled 1997 Tour winner has cut ties with his Telekom team for good, the only pro squad he’s known since turning professional in 1995. Ullrich, currently suspended from racing until March after testing positive for amphetamines in June, said he needs a new environment to recapture the ambitions to race.
“I think Bjarne [Riis] and I did a great job together in the past, over many years,” he told Eurosport in a recent interview in Paris. “We are friends. He has built up a team that I would love to ride for because he comes out with new ideas every season. He’s developing cycling. There are things I have been looking for in the past years and I really would be happy if I could sign with him soon. I think we are going to do a great job together.”
Ullrich, however, hasn’t raced since January and knee injuries forced him under the knife in May and again in August. In Paris for the 2003 Tour presentation, Ullrich looked surprisingly fit and sounded optimistic about the future.
“For the moment everything is good. But also I am sitting here and not on my bike. And we will suffer again, because one more time it is a very difficult Tour,” he said. “I feel good because my future is almost planned and I have a real desire for riding again. I really would like to show my best again in the next years. I hope I’ll succeed.”
Botero eyes Telekom
While Jan Ullrich is leaving Telekom, the German team is wasting no time in bolstering its roster. It’s already signed Cadel Evans and 2002 Giro winner Paolo Salvodelli and now it’s getting closer to signing world time trial champion Santiago Botero. The Colombian is currently unhappy at Kelme and wants to get out of his contract for next year. Telekom reportedly has an offer on the table, but Botero has a hefty $750,000 buy-out clause in his contract.